Volunteers’ Week, 1-7 June 2022
A Message to Refugee Action Volunteers
THANK YOU to everyone who has volunteered with us over the past year and for giving your time so freely and generously. We are grateful and appreciative for everything you have given. Believe me, we never take it for granted!
Volunteering can unlock a certain something within a person. It has certainly opened doors within Refugee Action to develop our work and reach out to more people. We have been able to develop several new areas of work which was made possible by your involvement.
Asylum Guides in Manchester is empowering people seeking asylum to take control of their asylum journey. Each person is matched with a volunteer who will contact them at key stages of the asylum process to offer guidance, key information, and links to other support services.
Pathways To Work is increasing the integration of refugees and people seeking asylum in the UK by providing employment support. Volunteers engage in a combination of employability group sessions and one-to-one mentoring.
Welcome Integration Guides in Bradford is supporting families living in temporary hotels as they await dispersal. Volunteers with lived experience meet and welcome new families, support their arrival by providing information on the asylum system and life in the UK, and share local knowledge.
We have welcomed many new volunteers to these and other projects. We are also especially lucky to have a core group of experienced volunteers, some of whom have been with us for many years. The knowledge and expertise every one of our volunteers brings is invaluable. We are fortunate to have you!
As the challenges facing refugees and people seeking asylum intensify, we anticipate volunteers’ help will be needed more than ever in the coming year. So, thank you for your dedication and commitment! It’s an honour and a pleasure to work alongside you.
Should you be reading this and want to join our volunteer team, opportunities are advertised on our website when they come up. Please also contact Nigel Williams, National Volunteer Co-ordinator, at NigelW@refugee-action.org.uk for more information.
WATCH: Sabiti’s message to volunteers
‘I feel like the door to my life is being opened’.
Here is a short story of how one person from Syria has been supported by a volunteer to engage in the local community and to release her skills to benefit not only herself but others in her local area.
Just before the first lockdown in March 2020, Nehad and her family moved house in Birmingham to a new, unfamiliar part of the city. Nehad had come to the UK as a refugee under the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme along with her family. She was housed initially in a diverse area which included other Syrian nationals.
On moving, Nehad experienced what many people do when they move – not knowing the area or anyone who lived there. Until Refugee Action’s Navigator Project organised a summer event, which Nehad attended with her children, she had no idea there were many other Syrian families living in the area.
To explain, the Navigator Project connects Syrian refugees with local, low cost, activities in Birmingham. It does this through sharing information digitally, group information sessions, establishing one to one contact and through mentoring. It supports refugees to navigate the services and networks in their area which then helps people to integrate further into their new city and increase their sense of belonging. Volunteers play an important role in this.
Back to Nehad’s story. She was matched with Teresa, a volunteer, so she could find out about local activities for herself and her family. Nehad is a trained accountant and speaks excellent English. Due to caring responsibilities, she hasn’t had the opportunity of returning to work since settling in the UK.
Teresa has been involved for many years within the local community that Nehad now lives in. She introduced Nehad to a community centre and she now volunteers within their Finance team. Nehad is now able to use her skills and realise her potential for the first time since arriving in the UK. She has said of this opportunity that ‘I feel like the door to my life is being opened’.
Without Nehad’s openness to engage with the Navigator Project, and Teresa’s wealth of local knowledge, and ability to connect people, this might not have happened. As we celebrate Volunteers’ Week 2022, it shows how the skills of volunteers can bring about positive change in people’s lives. Everyone within the Navigator Project is so pleased to see Nehad get this opportunity her talents deserve.
‘I Absolutely Loved My Time at Refugee Action’
Marcus recently finished volunteering with Increasing Asylum Justice as an Asylum Guide Volunteer. He volunteered as part of a team that empowers asylum seekers to take control of their asylum journey. Asylum Guides provide people with the support and knowledge to positively engage with the asylum process and to advocate for themselves.
This is how Marcus described his experience of volunteering with us.
I applied to volunteer with Refugee Action after studying human rights during my law degree because I wanted to become actively involved in the issues which I was learning about.
I initially found the prospect of volunteering with Refugee Action and the level of responsibility afforded to volunteers slightly daunting. However, these doubts were swiftly put to ease after the comprehensive training and support provided by the team. They ensured that we would only start work individually with asylum seekers when we truly felt ready. During the training, I learnt so much from colleagues and supervisors.
Volunteering varied a lot and each day brought something new. Sometimes it could be as simple as just being there to have a chat with someone, helping them to find a local football team or a sewing machine so that they could continue their passions in the UK. At other times conversations could be more challenging but this only made the work more rewarding. My supervisor was fantastic and always at hand with advice and guidance when I was unsure of anything.
The connections you build with asylum seekers and colleagues while volunteering with Refugee Action is incredible. It is by far the best role I have ever had either professionally or in terms of volunteering. The lessons learnt at Refugee Action have been vital for me in all areas of life and have given me a lot of confidence for new challenges. I absolutely loved my time at Refugee Action. I would highly recommend it to anyone.
Marcus – June 2022
A Volunteering Story
Many of Refugee Action’s volunteers are involved in front line service volunteering. However, equally important are the roles played by volunteers supporting other services. Lorena and Mary have both volunteered with our Fundraising team. This is how they have made a difference.
Mary and Lorena are both lived experience volunteers. They came through our Experts by Experience programme and were matched to a voluntary opportunity within Refugee Action.
Their volunteering has supported Fundraising most notably in researching small family trusts and in writing to them, successfully solicitating several donations for Refugee Action. They have also researched and identified other charities, influencers, philanthropic prospects and advisors who are likely to support our work in the future. Both Mary and Lorena very quickly understood the nuances of this type of research and supported the team with projects that have always been on the wish list!
Mary has been involved in many aspects of Refugee Action’s work, wanting to give something back to the organisation who supported her. She is currently a trustee. She says she has learnt a lot from this experience, and that it has given her the opportunity to build her skills, in particular data entry, spreadsheets and an understanding of research methodology. It has also opened her eyes to a possible career in fundraising or something similar. She noted that the team has been ‘fantastically supportive and welcoming’.
Lorena comments that she has developed skills in speed reading and searching for new donors, which in turn was focused on the same cause that motivated her to participate, which was to support asylum seekers and refugees in the community, just like her. This experience has enabled her to learn a lot and she said she’s received lots of support to integrate into a new role within her new life in the UK.
It was a real pleasure having Mary and Lorena join the Philanthropy and Partnerships team for over six months. They gave valuable capacity, skills, and insight for projects we’d always wanted to do but not had the chance. It was fantastic to see their efforts result in donations coming in from some of the trusts they researched. And their value doesn’t end there – the legacy of their help will continue as we use their research in the future.
This post was originally published on Refugee Action.